Which lines have you been waiting in?

It has been quite some time since my last entry. Blame it on life…actually lets just call it priorities. I’m not doing much modeling at the moment and have started to teach english privately while studying Chinese. It’s fair to say that the business is going MUCH better than the Chinese. My next post will update everyone on life, but this post is about that most wonderful time of the year…

Yes, I’m talking about Black Friday…what, you thought I was referring to the Christmas? Thanksgiving? Or maybe Remembrance Day? Actually, now that I think about it, I guess I am referring to those three days which when combined make up what should be the most reflective time of the year for the average person.

Once a month in October, November, and December, we are given a day or two off of work  so that we may celebrate, give thanks or pay tribute to others. It’s against this back-drop that “Black Friday” stands out like a business suit in a soup kitchen line. To be specific, it’s the fights, lines and obsession with getting a “steal” that I’m talking about, not the shopping itself.

In the following clip listen to how excited people are, and look at how many of them there are?! I mean you would think that they were about to meet Jay-Z and Beyonce or something…but no…they are buying underwear…that they can’t even afford.

So what’s the point of this post? Well, personally I find it hard to watch footage like this, because I just don’t get it. But, my point isn’t to judge. It’s certainly not to say that this is something endemic of a particular nation because as soon as something is “on sale”, “marked down” or “free”, it seems to bring out the worst in people regardless of where they’re from. For an example of this right here in China read this. All I’m hoping is that all my readers reflect a little on their own actions and choices a little.

Here’s the twist though, if you were the woman screaming for joy over the $30 thong you bought for $5, or if you were the guy who drove all the way from Vancouver to Seattle in order to buy an Armani suit that was discounted 50%, that’s fine. Savings matter, especially in today’s economy, and quite simply, who doesn’t appreciate big sales?!

What I’m asking is whether you’ve spent some time in a different line recently. Maybe the one full of people waiting to shake a Veteran’s hand in the pouring rain. If not, why not? Were you one of those people who, when asked, told their buddy they couldn’t afford to contribute $20 to a”Movember” campaign, or couldn’t spare a minute to even talk to the Habitat for Humanity canvasser on the street corner. Were you able to  commit to making a monthly contribution of even $5 a month towards any cause that was near and dear to your heart this past year?

So you see, this post really isn’t about the evils of shopping, and neither is this time of year. It’s a special time of year, a time when we are reminded to give thanks and are given ample opportunity to give back because its safe to say that most of us have more to be thankful for than we realize.

So next year when “Black Friday” rolls around, and you find yourself standing in an epic line, or watching  all the videos, and news stories about the general mayhem, remember to ask yourself which lines you’ve been waiting in all year.

As a footnote I read about “Giving Tuesday” after the fact and I hope it gains a little traction next year. Just one more opportunity to GIVE!


Inspiration: TOMS

Recently I was asked by one of my Bookers (the people who get you work as a model), whether I wanted to model for a long time. I wasn’t able to give him a direct answer, but what I was able to tell him was what I saw myself doing in the not so distant future.

I have come to realize that the most rewarding experience I’ve had professionally, was Managing the Annual Giving Call Centre at the University of British Columbia. I managed all aspects of the fundraising operation and together with my team of 60 or so students, we raised well over $1,000,000. It was like running a small business and that set me on a path that I currently find myself on.

Since working in the not for profit sector, I’ve been influenced and inspired by social entrepreneurs who have created for-profit businesses that address societal issues. One of the businesses at the forefront of this movement is TOMS.

If you didn’t already know, TOMS and it’s Founder, Blake Mycoskie, have been huge inspirations to me. Blake is a young entrepreneur who is bringing about social change while (I assume…) doing very well for himself. In his words, he is “doing good by, doing well.”

Chief Shoe Giver – Blake Mycoskie

I’ve decided to share an article that was published on my birthday. It’s obviously a signal from the heavens that this is my destiny, and in his own words, Blake does a great job of explaining why this business model is so exciting to someone like me, who is already fascinated by philanthropy and social entrepreneurship.

If you’d rather listen to him, I’ve also included a YouTube clip. Without further ado, the man himself…

A new model for philanthropy
2 December 2011

I never meant to get into the shoe business, and would have said you were crazy if you told me five years ago that’s what I’d be doing today. The idea to start TOMScame during a trip to Argentina back in 2006. I met some volunteers who were holding a shoe drive to collect used or slightly worn shoes for children in the community. One of the volunteers explained that many kids lacked shoes, an absence that not only complicated every aspect of their lives but also exposed them to a wide range of diseases. I spent a few days traveling from village to village, witnessing the real effects of being shoeless: the blisters, the sores, the infections—all the result of the children not being able to protect their feet from the ground. I wanted to do something about it. But what?

Like many would-be philanthropists, my first thought was to tackle the problem head on: I could start my own shoe-based charity, but instead of soliciting shoe donations, I would ask friends and family to donate money to buy the right type of shoes for these children on a regular basis. But, of course, this arrangement would last only as long as I could find donors. That was the traditional model of philanthropy: identify a cause and initiate a never ending hunt for donors. I wanted something more sustainable. These kids needed more than occasional shoe donations from strangers—they needed a constant, reliable flow.

Then I began to look for solutions in the world I already knew— business and entrepreneurship. An idea hit me: Why not create a for-profit business to help provide shoes for these children? It was a simple concept that I call One for One: Sell a pair of shoes today; give a pair of shoes tomorrow. And that’s when TOMS was born.

So far, Toms has given more than two million pairs of new shoes to children in need and recently launched its second One for One product, TOMS Eyewear. TOMS is only one example of a new breed of company that is succeeding at this volatile moment in capitalism. In this fast-paced and constantly mutating world, it is easier than ever to seize the day; but in order to do so, you must play by a new set of rules—because increasingly, the tried-and-true tenets of success are just tried, and not true.

What we’ve found is that TOMS succeeded precisely because we have created a new model. Business and philanthropy are no longer mutually exclusive. We’ve been able to find a sustainable way to give in the areas we serve. Through a simple purchase, a consumer is making a direct impact on someone’s life around the globe. There are no formulas or percentages. It’s simple. You buy something today and help someone tomorrow. One for One.

The giving component of TOMS makes our shoes and eyewear more than a product. They’re a part of a story, a mission, and a movement anyone can join. That, it turns out, is a compelling proposition.

Remember to LOVE LIFE everyone,


Club 21


An Idea taken from the author of The Happiness Equation, John Hallward:

“Club 21” was started by his grandparents. When each grandchild turned 21 they received a letter from their grandparents with a check for $500. The letter said happy birthday – here is $500 but it is not for you! The letter went on to explain that the money had to go to 5 separate charities. They had to choose two charities in the province that they lived, two in the province of Quebec where they grew up and one anywhere else. The grandchild then had to write a letter to the grandparents explaining which charity they gave to and why. Once the task was finished they were welcomed to “Club 21”, and received another $500 check to spend on themselves.

Whether you’re giving $50, $500, or $5000 as a birthday present or for Christmas ,it doesn’t matter. What matters is the lesson you are teaching. Compassion, thoughtfulness and kindness are all values that we can’t start teaching soon enough!



“For every vital service now being provided by a non-profit or government entity in this country, there is almost certainly a large corporation with the skills, experience, and scale to vastly improve and increase the capacities of those organizations.”

– Quote taken from “Corporations Must Become Socially Conscious Citizens” by Ron Shaich for Harvard Business Review



Letter to the Editor

Great news, the Globe and Mail now features a section dedicated entirely to “Giving”! The section is a weekly feature dedicated to  giving back and socially conscious living…again…high time.

After scanning the articles this morning, one feature titled Make small Changes that do a world of good caught my attention:

My issue is the limitations that continue to be placed on Charities by society. Why wouldn’t you support a charity that spends money on ad space or t.v. commercials? Is there a correlation between spending on advertising, telemarketing, or canvassing, and failure to deliver Mission? No, this notion is imposed upon charities unfairly by us.

Doesn’t it make more sense to evaluate a charity based on accomplishments and achievements rather than judge it on the business practices it employs? Practices which may even generate  more good than had they not been implemented.

By all means hold a charity to account and evaluate the means which it uses to achieve its ends, but don’t as the Editor in the article suggests, look for charities that avoid spending in certain areas. Did the ad campaign work? Charities need to be held to account for the decisions that they make as any organization would be, but a charity shouldn’t be punished (which you are doing by withholding your donation) simply for making a decision that it feels is in the best interest of the organization.

Its time to change rules of the game.

Dear Editor,

First off I would like to thank you for creating the new sections “Live Better” and “Giving”. I am not sure how long these will be featured in your newspaper, but I think it’s high time that the issues relating to the non-profit and social sectors were covered in greater detail, beyond the typical semi-annual feature.

I would like to voice my concern relating to one of the “tips” you have gave in the section “Make small changes that do a world of good”. In tip number three you recommend:

“Look for charities that avoid spending your donations on ad space, TV commercials, street canvassers or telemarketers.”

In my opinion this “tip” is limiting and rather short-sighted. For some reason, charities are forced to play by a different set of spending rules when compared to organizations in the for-profit sector. My question to you is why?

Charitable organizations tackle all of the greatest challenges facing our world, and depend on charity to allow them to do so. My point is this; before you decide to give of your own time, talent or treasure, evaluate a charity based on its results, impact and achievements, rather than scanning an operating budget looking for stats and figures on advertising spending. By no means am I suggesting that we shouldn’t hold our charities to account, I am simply questioning the standards by which we have traditionally done so, and suggesting that we reevaluate the process.

Best Regards,
Alexander von Kaldenberg